America & Me Contest Winners


Three students from Onekama School in Onekama have been named local winners in the 47" annual

America & Me Essay Contest, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance.

The three students, who earned the first, second, and third place awards for their school, are Maggie Madsen, first, Jose Lugo, second, and Alliyiah Torrey, third. All three received award certificates for their achievement. As the school's first place winner, Maggie's name will also be engraved on a plaque for permanent display in the school.

Maggie Madsen's first place essay now advances to the state level competition, from which the top ten essays in Michigan will be selected. The top ten statewide winners, who will be announced in April, will each receive a plaque, a medallion and a cash award of $1,000. In addition, the top ten essayists will be honored at a banquet in Lansing, meet with Michigan's top governmental leaders, and be the featured guests at a Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball game dedicated in their honor.

A team of finalist judges that includes a top Michigan government official and the sponsoring teachers of last year's top two statewide winners, will determine the ranking of the top ten statewide winners this year,

Several thousand eighth grade students from over 400 Michigan schools participated in the 2015 - 2016 America & Me Essay Contest, which was conducted with the help of Farm Bureau Insurance agents across the state. The topic of the 2015-2016 contest was “My Personal Michigan Hero."

Started in 1968 and open to all Michigan eighth grade students, the contest encourages Michigan youngsters to explore the greatness of America and its people. As sponsor of the contest, Farm Bureau Insurance has

earned 11 national awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.

Magnolia Madsen and Alliyiah Torrey
Not pictured: Jose Lugo

A Violet Sky

Magnolia Madson

I remember walking in a hallway on that November day with my two siblings and my grandma, searching for my dad. We found him waiting for us by a door, and he tells us her name. Violet Skye Madsen. I remember the excitement rushing through me, anxious to see my new sister, and finally getting to see her for the first time. She was born a month ahead of her due-date, so tiny, so fragile. She had beautiful blonde hair, and blue eyes that peered out. She was a treasure I had to keep. I knew she was going to change my life, but I would've never guessed, although ten years younger than me, she would become my Michigan hero.

Violet, now two, has always been my person to go when I need some cheering up. She has a funny sort of personality, totally her own. It’s a wonder how she will be so cheery when about the first half of her life was spent sick. Violet once had RSV, a illness that would make her stop breathing at random points in time. My mother told us that it was caused because RSV was her version of a cold, and we had all had a cold before she had it. It was a scary experience, and I would sometimes question if she would still live. She had to stay at hospitals sometimes, and she was once transported to a different hospital. I only remember seeing her once at the hospital she was transported to. I had to get dressed in big paper clothes and had to wear a mask over my face. Once we were all dressed, we went inside and saw Violet in a clear, big, tube-like thing, like a thing they would put cancer patients in. I was worried for Violet, and fear was rushing through my body. After a few days, she could go home. I was so excited, and they said she shouldn’t have to go through it ever again, and she never did.

Whenever I have a really good meal, there is also a really good chance Violet helped make it. She is mommy's little helper in the kitchen, helping blend the food, mix the food in the bowl, and taste-test. But sometimes, Violet can’t help make it because of one thing: gluten. Violet has Celiac disease, and that means she cannot have gluten, and sometimes even dairy, for it does permanent damage to the small intestine when you eat it. She has had it since almost a year old, so my mom couldn’t eat gluten either because she was still nursing her. Violet has had to eat different foods from us. Although the food tastes bad to us, it is delicious to her.

Violet loves playing outside with us. Her favorite thing to do outside is take walks with some music playing. But she wasn’t always allowed outside, this summer in particular. She had trouble going outside, so the doctors said she couldn’t go outside if the pollen count was over 4.5. That was challenging for her, because that meant, in the place where we lived, she could go only go out on (almost always) rainy days. Any time else we would put her in a stroller and put a plastic cover over her. She doesn’t have to do it now, but when she did we could only go outside when she was sleeping or when pollen count was below 4.5.

Heroes don’t always have super powers, like Superman or Wolverine. Heroes are people who change other people’s lives. Tell them a life lesson, or teach them just one thing. Violet has taught me that there can be happiness in the darkest of times, that people can be different but exactly the same, and that because you have something hard to overcome, you can overcome the impossible. Violet also taught me that people don’t have to be older than you to impact your life, sometimes it’s just the little people who can do big things. So when I need a hero, I look for my Violet Skye.